An Extremely Rare, Centuries-Old Italian Violin Hit a High Note at Auction, Selling for a Whopping $9.44 Million

An exceptionally rare Guarneri violin—so fabled that it has its own name, the Baltic—sold for $9.44 million (premium included) at auction on March 16, just shy of its $10 million estimate. The final sale price smashed the $3.6 million auction record for a Guarneri instrument (set in June 2022) to become the third-highest price paid for any musical instrument.

The Baltic was the star lot of the online auction of more than 100 rare and important stringed instruments and bows at auction house Tarisio in New York. A leader in rare violin sales, Tarisio pulled in a total of over $11.1 million in the sale, while 18 new auction records were set for assorted music-making treasures.

“The Baltic is more than an exceptional instrument,” said Carlos Tomé, the director and head of sales at Tarisio. “It is a singular work of art.”

The Baltic was handcrafted around 1731 by master luthier Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù—known as del Gesù—in the small town of Cremona, Italy. His and his family’s stringed instruments are among the most prized in the world, perhaps owing to a deeper sound than other violins, attributed to the wood used, flamed maple wood. Violinists Isaac Stern, Jascha Heifetz, and Itzhak Perlman are among those who’ve performed on stage with Guarneri violins.

The Baltic violin. Courtesy of Tarisio New York.

The scroll and pegs of the Baltic violin. Courtesy of Tarisio.

Before the sale, the Baltic spent 50 years in the collection of the late Sau-Wing Lam, an American businessman and noted collector of rare musical instruments. Since his acquisition of the instrument in 1979, it was exhibited twice at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, once in 1994 in a show of exceptional Guarneri instruments, and again in 2012, when the museum hosted an exhibition and concert series dedicated to Lam’s collection.

Before Sau-Wing Lam, the Baltic belonged to the classical musician Dorotha Powers, who taught violin to baseball legend Mickey Mantle. She traded in two Stradivarius violins to acquire the Guarneri from the Wurlitzer Company, American makers of pianos and jukeboxes. Previously it was owned by a Baltic family, who were the first to refer to it as the Baltic—and the name stuck.

Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù was only 32 when he made the violin in 1731, breaking with practices established by his grandfather, father, and uncle. With its shorter body length, broader wings, and distinct “hatchet-shaped” sound holes, the Baltic is among the first violins to bear the trademarks of del Gesù’s own style.

More famous of the two violin makers, Antonio Stradivari was born in 1644, about a half-century before del Gesù. Both makers practiced their craft in their hometown of Cremona, Italy. But while some 600 Stradivarius violins have survived, only about 150 Guarneri violins remain, making them a much rarer find.


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Adam Lindemann’s Collection Rakes in $32 Million in an Unusual Christie’s Auction

It’s not every day that Christie’s sells Warhol paintings, a Jeff Koons sculpture, a Ducati motorcycle, a Royère sofa, and tribal art in a single sale.

But it did yesterday as part of the sale of works from the collector Adam Lindemann, which brought in a total of $31.5 million for 36 lots, all of which sold (though one lot was withdrawn). The pre-sale estimate was $22 million to $34 million. (Final prices include premiums while estimates do not.)

“I like to mix old and new,” Lindemann told Midnight Publishing Group News after the sale. “It was amazing to have the opportunity to use these works of art to tell a story about myself, my aesthetic, what I like, and how I see the world of design, the world of art.”

Andy Warhol, Little Electric Chair (1964). Image courtesy Christie's.

Andy Warhol, Little Electric Chair (1964). Image courtesy Christie’s.

The highest price achieved at the sale—titled “Adam: The collection of Adam Lindemann”—was $5.5 million for an Alexander Calder mobile, Black Disc with Flags (1939), followed by Warhol’s haunting Little Electric Chair (1964) in a day-glo shade of pink that sold for $4.5 million. Koons’s large, unforgettable sculpture of children with a pig, Ushering in Banality (1988), sold for $3.9 million.

A green “Ours Polar” sofa and pair of armchairs by Jean Royère (circa 1952) sold for $3.4 million, double the high $1.5 million estimate.

Jeff Koons, Ushering in Banality (1988). Image courtesy Christie's.

Jeff Koons, Ushering in Banality (1988). Image courtesy Christie’s.

“I was thrilled to see the record for the Royère sofa set because that to me is the best one that has ever been sold publicly,” he said, “even though it stalled at $900,000 and I almost had a heart attack.” (The bidding, of course, took off again after that brief pause.)

Work by female artists also figured prominently. Karen Kilimnick’s oval portrait painting The 1700s-Dinner Soirée, (2000) sold for a mid-estimate $107,000, while Jamian Juliano-Villani’s painting Welcome to My Booth (2019), sold for $75,600, well above the high $60,000 estimate.

Karen Kilimnick, The 1700s-Dinner Soirée (2000). Image courtesy the artist.

Karen Kilimnick, The 1700s-Dinner Soirée (2000). Image courtesy the artist.

Lindemann, who has promised a seven-figure gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from the proceeds, emphasized that he did not include any artists from the roster of his own gallery, Venus Over Manhattan.

A painting by the sought-after Chicago Imagist Jim Nutt, titled Plume, sold for $478,800, well above its high $200,000 estimate. And a Damien Hirst pill-filled medicine cabinet, The Sleep of Reason, sold for $2.2 million (estimate: $1.5 to 2.5 million).

“This was a good way to tell a story and move on,” Lindemann said. “I redecorated the next day. I love collecting and I love the action of it.”

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Christie’s Pulled In $202 Million at Its 20th/21st-Century Sales in London—But Not Many Buyers Went Big

Despite a tumultuous economic environment and the onset of yet another winter flu taking many people out of commission, Christie’s energetically kicked off London’s auction week today with two back-to-back evening sales bringing in £167.8 million ($202.2 million).

The sales total falls within the house’s presale expectations of £128–190.3 million ($154.3–229.3 million), though not quite as handily when you account for the fact that final sales figures reported by the house are inflated by auction house fees, whereas the presale estimates are not. The final hammer price of the night, £137.9 million ($166.2 million), conveys a more accurate picture of how things went—an unspectacular but still not entirely discouraging result. (We will stick with hammer prices tonight, unless otherwise noted.)

To offer a direct sale-to-sale comparison, Christie’s equivalent sale last year—a 20th and 21st-century relay sale between Shanghai and London, also with its The Art of the Surreal sale as a coda—brought in just over £249 million ($334 million) after fees. This year’s takings are down 32.6 percent on that. 

The saleroom at Christie's 20th/21st century evening sale on February 28. Courtesy Christie's Images Limited 2023.

The sale room at Christie’s 20th/21st century evening sale on February 28. Photo courtesy Christie’s Images Limited 2023.

As is now fairly typical, the “evening” sale was timed at 2 p.m. in order to take advantage of London’s situation as a central nexus of timezones, and be convenient for buyers in New York and Asia. As is now commonplace as well, there were plenty of cameras conveying the action to those unable to be in the room. 

The atmosphere going into the sale was a little manic, as specialists crowded around the phone banks on both sides, though the sale room was also buzzing and fuller than we have seen in London for a while. One of the attendees smirked at the theater of it all, remarking “it all happens on the phones anyway,” but was swiftly proven wrong as there was bidding action from the auction house floor throughout the sales (and indeed the final lot of both sales landed to bidders present in the room).

The attendance was not surprising as this week in London represents the first public market test of the year in an increasingly rocky financial environment. The war in Ukraine has now passed the one-year mark and China’s Covid policies are still wreaking havoc further east. It feels longer than ever since the New York auctions last fall, and while the $1.5 billion sale of the collection of the late Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen in November left specialists in a mood of tentative optimism that the event would inspire confidence in the market, many market watchers anticipated that the Allen sale would be a sort of final hurrah. Meanwhile, London has so far managed to stave off a recession, but the consensus is that it, along with the rest of the global economy, is still sputtering towards one. 

All told, 106 lots were offered across both sales after three lots were withdrawn, wiping between £4.6 million and £7.8 million ($5.5 million and $9.4 million) off the slate. Specialists grafted extra hard ahead of the sale to secure a whopping 27 guarantees, three of which were made by the house, 24 by third parties. Six records were set; 12 works failed to find buyers, of which 10 were within the main sale, two in the Surrealist portion of the evening, making for a sell-through rate of 89 percent by lot, 91 percent by value across both sales. 

Alberto Giacometti, Chandelier for Peter Watson. Photo courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd. 2023.

Alberto Giacometti, Chandelier for Peter Watson. Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd 2023.

It was fairly obvious that material had been a challenge heading into the 20th/21st century sale, despite the fact that the house worked hard to find fresh-to-market works that would excite-to-buy; 66 percent of the 20th/21st century evening sale had never been offered for public sale before. Speaking to Midnight Publishing Group News ahead of the sale, one London art advisor remarked that the material the house was able to cobble together was a reflection of the recession climate the market is navigating: “It’s all very safe and just exciting enough,” she said, adding snarkily that she expected it will “do well with the interior designers!”

To wit, there was an unusual amount of sculpture in this sale (nine lots), including a remarkable Giacometti chandelier being sold by relatives of the artist John Craxton, whose eyes nearly popped out of his head when he spotted it for sale for just £250 ($700) in an antiques shop in Marylebone during the 1960s. The lot paid dividends for the house, bringing in a whopping £2.4 million.

Another notable sculpture was a primitive Baseltiz carving from the Hess Art Collection in Switzerland, the 1994 Frau Paganismus (Mrs Paganism). It was likely consigned in response to the market, as another Baselitz sculpture achieved the $11.2 million record price for the artist at Sotheby’s New York last May. This one came in below its £4 million ($4.8 million) low estimate to hammer at £3.8 million ($4.5 million).

Pablo Picasso, Femme dans un rocking-chair (Jacqueline) (1956). Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd 2023.

Marking the 50th anniversary of Pablo Picasso’s death, the top lot of the evening was the artist’s large-format late portrait Femme dans un rocking-chair (Jacqueline) (1956, estimate: £15–20 million, $18–24 million). In a sign of the times, it hammered below estimate at £14.5 million ($17.4 million) on just one bid to Impressionist and Modern specialist Giovanna Bertazzoni, who was very possibly bidding on behalf of its third-party guarantor.

Those watching London for insights on what’s to come as the season progresses to Hong Kong and New York might be curious to see if the market for ultra-contemporary artists has withstood the economic downturn. The speculative segment has been cooling down as buyers fly to artists whose markets are more tried and tested. After rocketing 500 percent in sales in five years, the category’s growth slowed and by the end of last year, total sales had declined 10 percent year-over-year, per data from the Midnight Publishing Group Price Database.

The sale was front-loaded with ultra-contemporary lots, opening on Michaela Yearwood Dan’s Love me nots (2021, estimate: £40,000–60,000, $48,092–$72,138). The artist’s prices soared to $388,798 at Phillips in December, and a new record was set in the sale room today when the work hammered at £580,000 ($753,800)—buoyed with fees to £730,800 ($879,956), and landing with a bidder on the phone with Tessa Lord.

Continued frenzy was also exhibited for Caroline Walker, whose works are hitting the block at all three of the main houses this week, with 10 telephone bidders chomping at the bit and a cluster of bids raising the hammer price to £550,000 ($661,265), easily beating her £200,000 ($240,460) high estimate.

But erstwhile market stars whose estimates have caught up with their hammer prices didn’t do as astonishingly well as they have in the past couple of years. A Louise Bonnet and Robert Nava hammered within estimate without fireworks. An Adrian Ghenie “pie fight” study hammered below the £280,000 ($336,644) estimate, on a single bid.

NFTs were represented in the sale with the auction debut of Tyler Hobbs, who was a breakout in the NFT mania in 2021, and whose market has also survived the crash (he is opening a solo exhibition at Unit London next week before a solo outing at Pace in New York next month). Hobbs was represented by one of his best known “Fidenza” works, a series of 999 algorithmically produced and randomized grids of color that find predecessors in Mondrian and Agnes Martin as much as in the early computer-plotter art of generative pioneers such as Vera Molnár. The floor price for “Fidenza” works this morning was 72 ETH, or £96,587 ($116,752), and the lot hammered well above that, though still within estimate at £290,000 ($348,667). 

Liu Ye, The Goddess (2018). Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Limited 2023.

Choruses of applause came a few times during the sale: First, when a flurry of interest, mostly from Asia-Pacific region specialists, ignited a protracted bidding war for Liu Ye’s 2018 painting, Goddess. When one bidder failed to secure it against Hong Kong-based specialist Elaine Holt’s £2.6 million ($3.1 million) winning hammer bid, he was heard sulkingly consoling himself with the fact that he may soon have another opportunity when David Zwirner (he heard) brings one to Frieze.

More claps erupted on the sale of an early Van Gogh painting of one of his few named sitters, Gordina de Groot, which has been in the same collection for 420 years. The work attracted some fiery competition and ended up hammering at at £4 million ($4.8 million), double its high estimate, to an irascible bidder in the room who we can identify as London collector and dealer Danny Katz. He implored auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen, who was milking the sale, to “put the bloody hammer down!”

Mixed results came in for German Modern and Impressionists. Two Ernst Ludwig Kirchner paintings with a combined low estimate of £4 million ($4.8 million) failed to find buyers, as did an Erich Heckel painting, and Edgar Degas’s Trois Danseuses (est. £3–5 million, $3.6–6 million).

Someone scored a deal on a provocative Otto Dix watercolor, which hammered at £200,000 ($240,460), less than half its £500,000 ($601,150) low estimate. It was sad day, too, for Chaim Soutine, whose Expressionist painting, Femme assise dans un fauteil, was also a pass, eaten up by the house, which had guaranteed it. 

René Magritte, Souvenir de voyage (1958). Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Limited 2023.

After a short break, the main evening sale was succeeded by the house’s Art of the Surreal evening sale. Of the 32 lots, everything sold except for a Dalí painting on board and a Hans Arp sculpture, which carried a combined low estimate of £2.8 million ($3.3 million). The higher, 94 percent sell-through rate is unsurprising given Surrealism is riding off the interest rekindled by its role in the 2022 Venice Biennale.

Strong results came in for works by René Magritte. His Souvenir de voyage, part of a grouping of 25 works anonymously consigned by collectors Gary and Kathie Heidenreich (who were identified by Midnight Publishing Group News). Their Surrealist collection focused on exiled and women artists began after having lunch with Leonora Carrington in Mexico with their advisor Wendi Norris. The work, which last sold publicly in 2009 for $1 million at Sotheby’s, blew past its £3.5 million ($4.2 million) upper bound to hammer at £4.6 million ($5.5 million).

London has proven itself to be a good place to bring a Magritte—not least since Sotheby’s decamped its own Surrealism sale to Paris. This time last year, the rival house netted a £59.4 million ($79.8 million) record for a Magritte masterpiece. To wit, another Magritte—not part of the Heidenreich consignment but a dreamy skybird motif backed by a third-party guarantee—hammered within estimate at £5.1 million ($6.1 million).

Leonora Carrington, Lepidoptera (1968). Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Limited 2023.

A flurry of bids came too for Leonora Carrington’s colorful orange Lepidoptera, one of her few overtly political works, driving it to £460,000 ($553,058), nearly double its high estimate. Carrington’s market has been on the rise, riding off the 2022 Venice Biennale and a new $3.25 million auction record set in Sotheby’s last May.

Anyone who sat through to the end of this 4.5-hour sale marathon was rewarded with a bit of light entertainment, as the second auctioneer, Impressionist and Modern art specialist Veronica Scarpati, desperately worked to secure a £560,000 ($673,288) bid from billionaire collector David Nahmad, sat in the front row, for an Yves Tanguy painting that had been estimated to fetch £900,000–1.5 million ($1–1.2 million), but had failed to excite the room. 

The sale closed on a £280,000 ($336,644) Joan Miró painting, which hammered to a bidder in the room, and auctioneer Pylkkänen’s proclamation that “the art market is alive and well.” If this sale is anything to go by, he’s not wrong. While the market may be sputtering a little, no one is turning their engines off just yet.

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The Silent Consignors to the $506 Million London Auctions, From an Israeli Real Estate Tycoon to One of Mexico’s Richest Men

Presale estimates for the London series of Modern and Contemporary art sales at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips this February and March (starting on Tuesday, 28 February) are down 26 percent from last year. Whether that is part of a negative Brexit effect or just a sign of the times generally is hard to pin-point. Including the lower-value day sales, the total estimate is £355 million ($506 million) (before any withdrawn lots) compared to £461 million ($652 million) last year—and that’s despite the fact that the auction houses have increased the number of lots on offer from 419 to 618 (or by 49 percent).

Christie’s total presale estimate for five sales, including the online-only First Open sale, has sunk most—by 33.5 percent from a presale lower estimates value of £223 million last year to £159 million. Sotheby’s has decreased the number of lots offered by 15.5 percent from 269 to 233 over three sales, with a presale lower estimated value falling from £205 million to £162 million. The sharpest drop comes for Sotheby’s ultra-contemporary “Now” sale which, in spite of retaining a similar number of lots, has fallen in estimated pre-sale value by over half from £15.6 million to £6.8 million. Only Phillips, with the smallest contribution, has retained its predicted performance level. With slightly fewer lots than last year, pre-sale lower estimates have risen by 9 percent from £31 million to £33.9 million thanks to an already publicized consignment of two works by Gerhard Richter and Willem de Kooning from the eminent French collector, Marcel Brient, valued between £17 and 20 million ($20.9 to $20.9 million). Brient had previously preferred to sell through Sotheby’s or Christie’s. 

Among the unnamed consignors in the London catalogues that Midnight Publishing Group News can reveal are:

Gary and Kathie Heidenreich

Óscar Domínguez, Machine à coudre électro - sexuelle (1934-1935). Courtesy Christie's Images Limited 2023.

Óscar Domínguez, Machine à coudre électro – sexuelle (1934-1935). Courtesy Christie’s Images Limited 2023.

With Sotheby’s shifting its surrealist focus to Paris, it is left to Christie’s, which has long prided itself on its specialized surrealist sales under the direction of Olivier Camu, to carry the torch for surrealism in London. Their major presale announcement concerned a collection sale they have termed anonymously as “Memory of a Surreal Journey: Property from an Important San Francisco Bay Area Collection,” including 25 works with a presale estimate of £13 million – £18 million ($15.6 million –$21.6 million).

Midnight Publishing Group News understands that the collectors are San Jose based Gary and Kathie Heidenreich, who have lent several of the works for sale to museum exhibitions in the past where they are credited as lenders. The couple were largely advised by California’s surrealist specialist dealer, Wendi Norris, who did not comment on their identity but recalled taking them to Mexico 20 years ago where they had lunch with Leonora Carrington—a lunch that inspired them to go on their “surreal journey.”

That journey led them from the now established Carrington to Magritte (their most recent acquisition) and, on the way, to potential record breakers by Óscar Dominguez, Remedios Varo, Wolfgang Paalen and the little-known British artist, Stella Snead. The Dominguez, Machine à coudre électro sexuelle (1934-35), estimated at £2 million – £3 million ($2.4 million – $3.6 million), was bought by the couple at Christie’s in 2013 for a record £2.1 million ($3.3 million). Proceeds from the sale will go to the couple’s philanthropic foundation for the education of children, says Norris. 

Elie Khouri

Shara Hughes, Sticks and Stones (2018). Courtesy Sotheby's London.

Shara Hughes, Sticks and Stones (2018). Courtesy Sotheby’s London.

Designated as “Property from a Distinguished Private Collection,” Sticks and Stones, 2018, by Shara Hughes, has an estimate of £400,000 – £600,000 ($478,654 – $717,981) in Sotheby’s “Now” sale on Wednesday which is one of the highest yet for the artist whose record was set last year at an enticing $2.9 million for would-be sellers.

Sticks and Stones was bought from San Francisco’s Berggruen Gallery in 2018 when it formed the centerpiece of the artist’s exhibition of psychedelic, surreal flower paintings, just before auction prices for her ascended into six figures. The buyer, and this week’s anonymous seller, Elie Khouri, is a Lebanese-born, Dubai-based marketing and advertizing executive, who has represented companies such as Pepsi, Yves Saint Laurent, LVMH, and McDonalds. Khouri is currently the chairman of communications company Omnicom Media Group. A member of the MoMA’s Media and Performance Committee, as well as the Tate’s Middle East and North Africa Acquisitions Committee, he has collected over 200 contemporary works in the last decade and exhibited this work at the Arts Club Dubai in 2021 amongst other works from his collection by market hot shots Julie Curtiss and Derek Adams. 

Alex Hank

Philippe Parreno, Marquee M1535 (2015). Courtesy Sotheby's London.

Philippe Parreno, Marquee M1535 (2015). Courtesy Sotheby’s London.

French artist Philippe Parreno is not a popular artist at auction—that is, there is not much sold on the secondary market. As Wikipedia puts it, his style is more project- than object-based. To the cognoscenti, that is probably a plus, but the occasional object does occasionally surface. Such is the case with Marquee M1535, a 10 foot long, transparent plexiglass sculpture with neons and bulbs made in 2015, which has one of the highest estimates yet for the artist at £150,000 – £200,000 ($179,481 – $239,307) at Sotheby’s “Now” sale in London on Wednesday.

The sculpture is part of a series of “Marquee” works that were inspired by the lights that hung over cinema entrances in America in the 1950s. A larger version was commissioned for Tate’s Turbine Hall, and is now in the museum’s collection. Smaller variants are in the Pinault and Beyeler collections. This example, to be auctioned, was acquired from the Gladstone Gallery in New York by Alex Hank, the artist son of Carlos Hank Rhon who, according to Forbes, has a $3 billion fortune and is no 10 on Mexico’s rich list as owner of Grupo Hermes, an industrial conglomerate with interests in construction, infrastructure, energy, tourism and car dealerships. 

In 2019, Marquee M1535 was exhibited at Gstaad airport as part of the Alex Hank collection alongside works by Matthew Barney, Marlene Dumas, Dan Flavin, Alberto Giacometti, Jenny Holzer, Anne Imhof, Toba Khedoori, Sol LeWitt, Glenn Ligon, On Kawara, John McCracken, Neo Rauch, Gerhard Richter, Egon Schiele, Richard Serra, DeWain Valentine, Lawrence Weiner, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

Igal Ahouvi

Haim Steinback, Untitled (Boba Fett) (2012). Courtesy Christie's Images Limited 2023.

Haim Steinback, Untitled (Boba Fett) (2012). Courtesy Christie’s Images Limited 2023.

Real estate developer and Israel Museum of Art trustee, Igal Ahouvi owns a private art collection that numbers over 1,200 works, making it one of the largest in Israel. Artists in the collection include Gerhard Richter, Cindy Sherman, Andreas Gursky, Marlene Dumas, and David Hammons. More recent acquisitions include works by Lucas Arruda and Genieve Figgis. About 50 percent of the artists are Israeli, but they only make up 5 percent of the value, he told Larry’s List in 2020. Ahouvi is not known for making disposals publicly, but at Christie’s he is the “Distinguished Private Collector” in their contemporary day sale catalogue who is selling a 6 foot work by Haim Steinbach—Untitled (Boba Fett) 2012—titled with reference to the Star Wars bounty hunter character Boba Fett, and was bought in 2012 from White Cube. 

Dealer Tanya Bonakdar’s website notes that “For more than four decades, Haim Steinbach has explored the psychological, aesthetic, cultural and ritualistic aspects of collecting and arranging already existing objects. His work engages the concept of ‘display’ as a form that foregrounds objects, raising consciousness of the play of presentation.”

Prices for Steinbach peaked at the charity RED auction at Sotheby’s New York in 2008, when his donation made $176,000. A couple of months later at a normal Sotheby’s sale, a work from the Nasher collection sold for $79,000 against a $6,000 low estimate. But more recently his work has been less sought after. Untitled (Boba Fett) 2012 has an estimate of just £15,000–£20,000 ($17,965 – $23,953).   

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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Only Oceanfront Home, Where Architecture and Surf Join in ‘Natural Melody,’ Has Sold for $22 Million

Of all the Frank Lloyd Wright homes around the world, there is only one that sits on the ocean: the Mrs. Clinton Walker House. On Carmel Point near the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, the extraordinary home just sold for its asking price of $22 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed the home to resemble a ship's bow cutting through water. Courtesy of Sotheby's International Realty.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed the home to resemble a ship’s bow cutting through water. Photo: Matthew Millman. Courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

The famed architect designed the house to resemble a ship’s bow cutting through water, a nod to his distinctive practice of integrating structures into their natural surroundings. The striking feature is made possible by the hexagonal floor plan of the triangular living room, allowing for spectacular views of waves crashing onto rocks nearby.

Frank Lloyd Wright made use of the promontory to create a hexagonal living room. Courtesy of Sotheby's International Realty.

Frank Lloyd Wright made use of the promontory to create a hexagonal living room. Photo: Matthew Millman. Courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

The 1,400-square-foot space owes its illustrious provenance to the home’s owner, Della Walker, who wrote a short letter to Wright in 1945 asking him to take on the project. “I am a woman living alone,” she said. “I wish protection from the wind and privacy from the road and a house as enduring as the rocks but as transparent and charming as the waves and delicate as the seashore. You are the only man who can do this—will you help me?”

One of the bedrooms in Frank Lloyd Wright's home for Della Walker. Courtesy of Sotheby's International Realty.

One of the bedrooms in Frank Lloyd Wright’s home for Della Walker. Photo: Matthew Millman. Courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

Walker—an artist and widow of Minneapolis lumber executive Clinton Walker—had seen images of Wright’s Fallingwater home and was captivated by its simple, single-story Usonian style that made the nearby stream its focal point. She felt Wright could do the same with her uniquely positioned coastal property. 

Appreciating the “brief and to the point” letter, Wright agreed to take on the project and ultimately designed the single-story, copper-roofed home overlooking Carmel Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Three bedrooms—all facing the sea—are located in the rear of the home, which Wright lowered four feet for better assimilation with the environment.

The Mrs. Clinton home in Carmel by Frank Lloyd Wright. Courtesy of Sotheby's International Realty.

The Mrs. Clinton Walker House by Frank Lloyd Wright. Photo: Matthew Millman. Courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

The combined living and dining area is centered around a floor-to-ceiling fireplace with built-in furniture. The window frames are painted in Wright’s signature Cherokee Red color with reverse-stepped glass windows. “The overall effect is quiet,” said Wright in 1954, “and the long white surf lines of the sea seem to join the lines of the house to make a natural melody.”

The floor-to-ceiling fireplace in Frank Lloyd Wright's home for Della Walker. Courtesy of Sotheby's International Realty.

The floor-to-ceiling fireplace in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mrs. Clinton Walker House. Photo: Matthew Millman. Courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

Wright was unwavering about his designs when embarking on the house in 1948, so that when it was completed in 1952, it was exactly as he envisioned. “I hope this tiny aristocrat among the Carmel bourgeois, so exciting in itself, is not only a domestic experience giving you the joy you, its progenitor, deserve, but a spiritual uplift,” he wrote to Walker after a visit to the home.

According to the local newspaper the Carmel Pine Cone, the Mrs. Clinton Walker House sold to Monaco businessman Patrice Pastor, a major land owner in the city, who bought it from the descendants of Della Walker.


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In Pictures: See Every Single Artwork in the Rijksmuseum’s Vermeer Show, a Once-in-a-Lifetime Exhibition That Is Already Sold Out

The National Museum of Asian Art Will Hold on to Looted Artifacts Intended to Return to Yemen to Protect Them From Conflict

A Cabinetmaker Spent 30 Years Trying to Prove a Painting He Bought at an Antique Shop Is a Raphael. A.I. May Have Just Done It for Him

5 Breakout Artists We Discovered at the Los Angeles Art Fairs Whose Work Stopped Us in Our Tracks

Kenny Schachter Hits Frieze L.A.—or Does He?—and Digs Up Scoops on Peter Doig’s New Mastermind, Mark Grotjahn’s Dine-and-Dash, and Bad Art-Market Behavior Galore

Madagascan Artist Joël Andrianomearisoa Has Quietly Honed His Practice for Decades. Why Is He Suddenly Everywhere?

Here Are 8 Mythic Artist Studios to Visit Across America, From Georgia O’Keeffe’s Desert Retreat to Winslow Homer’s Ocean-Sprayed Bungalow

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